'Taken aback, Jesus said, "I've yet to come across this kind of simple trust in Israel, the very people who are supposed to know all about God and how he works. This man is the vanguard of many outsiders who will soon be coming from all directions—streaming in from the east, pouring in from the west, sitting down at God's kingdom banquet alongside Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Then those who grew up 'in the faith' but had no faith will find themselves out in the cold, outsiders to grace and wondering what happened."'
Let me dissect this passage for you in reverse, because it is because of 'the vanguards' that I have found my place at the table of God. For just as there are 'outsiders to grace', there are those who likewise have experienced the transformative grace and unconditional love of Christ.
The word 'vanguard' needs some explaining in technical terms - see at bottom of article.
While some may not have grown up in a church-going family, they have discovered God somewhere along the journey—maybe not even in a church setting. There are many in the house of God who can attest that they met God outside it, but this didn't just happen and it doesn't just happen.
People are who God uses to convey his message of grace and salvation to the world, indeed vanguards, like the man about whom Jesus is speaking in Matthew chapter 8 verses 10-12. In context, the man in the passage has just demonstrated a blind trust in the sovereignty of Jesus—that at Jesus' word his servant would be healed. Jesus marvels at the man's faith, and isn't it something noteworthy?
On many occasions in Sunday mass I said the words, "Lord, I am unworthy to receive you, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed." In The New Mass, the words have been changed to more accurately reflect the Bible passage from which they were taken, 'Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but say only the word and my soul shall be healed.' I uttered the words, but doubt I ever understood their power—the power of faith, and blind faith at that.
More than this
For if a word was all we needed from God, we have the written word of God to turn to whenever we please, and yet I think many of us need more to believe than the unadulterated word of God. Oh, if we needed only the word—we could be sure that there would be no sickness in our bodies, no member of our families not accounted for, no foothold for the enemy for at the name of Jesus', supposedly, the enemy would flee. Yes, the word of God, Jesus' word, is 'alive and active—sharper than any two-edged sword.' (Hebrews chapter 4 verse 12)
Hebrews 11 is commonly called the Hall of Faith, and it begins like this,
'Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.' (Hebrews 11:1-2 King James Version KJV)
By faith, not by action, did our forefathers, heroes of the early church like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—all the figures mentioned in Matthew chapter 8—obtain 'a good report', or a great blessing, a seat at the table of God and a name to be remembered throughout the generations, not by anything special that they did but simply by trusting wholeheartedly in God. Vanguards, who simply dared to take God at his word.
I have had some vanguards in my walk with Christ, people who prayed with me and walked with me and believed wholeheartedly that God had destined me for a purpose I did not then realise. Were it not for the man who told me about the difference between religion and relationship; that God desired my whole heart, not my dutiful recitations and labours—I would not have made the decision that day to spend the rest of my life surrendering control of my life to God.
Were it not for the faithful fathers I've had in my family, men from two generations at least who have forged the way for me, led by example in prayer and obedience, shown me what it is to take God at his word, I doubt I'd have anything to do with God and faith.
Vanguards – they have come and gone, and they exist today. Maybe you haven't come face to face with this kind of faith-filled being in your life. Perhaps you have come to faith through your own personal encounter with Jesus Christ. The question then is will you stand in the gap as a vanguard for the next generation of believers?
Will you be the example of faith for someone unsure of their future and their purpose?
God uses people to communicate his message of salvation and grace. How marvellous to think he could use you and me to reach those to whom he is yet to reveal himself.
Vanguard: ˈvanɡɑːd/ noun - a group of people leading the way in new developments or ideas.
"the experimental spirit of the modernist vanguard"
▪ a position at the forefront of new developments or ideas.
"the prototype was in the vanguard of technical development"
|synonyms:||forefront, van, advance guard, avant-garde, spearhead, front, front line, front rank, fore, lead, leading position, cutting edge, driving force; More|
▪ the foremost part of an advancing army or naval force.
David Luschwitz is a teacher and writer living in Sydney. Recently he has teamed up with Surf Life Saving Australia, which sadly means an end to 'shark movies' -something he is finding obviously, quite difficult.
To read more of David's writing and to hear his story check out www.davidluschwitz.com
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